George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley identifies himself as “pro-choice,” but he sees a dangerous absolutism in the abortion movement. Writing in USA Today, he argues that the movement’s opposition to parental notification laws represents an “unbridled passion that often seems more a matter of blind faith than reasoned principle.”
As he explains: Polls have consistently shown that a vast majority of Americans, including pro-choice citizens, favor either parental notice or consent for abortions performed on minors. Last week, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll showed that 69% of citizens favored requiring minors to get parental consent. Polls routinely show that 75%-80% of citizens favor parental notice.
Further: The absolutist view is equally at odds with our constitutional traditions. There are no absolute individual rights in our Constitution. The Framers forged a system protecting individual rights while recognizing legitimate countervailing interests of the state. In that balanced system, even such fundamental rights as the freedom of speech and free press, association and religion have been subject to some limitations.
For example, when states prohibit screaming “fire” in a crowded theater, they are not diminishing free speech. Such reckless conduct is not part of any reasonable definition of the right to free speech, just as the categorical exclusion of required parental participation is not part of any reasonable definition of the right to an abortion.
Pro-choice advocates would make abortion the only absolute right in our Constitution, even though it was not fully recognized by the Supreme Court until 1973. Conversely, parental rights have been recognized since the founding of our Republic but are routinely dismissed when they collide with the almighty right to an abortion.
Turley’s observation should be noted by all who care about the abortion debate. Opposition to parental notification of a minor’s plan to have an abortion is itself a form of extremism — and it is based in an radical view of abortion as an absolute right.
The professor also argues that “most parents are not unhinged throwbacks who simply cannot handle juvenile pregnancies. Indeed, parents know a lot more about their children than do abortion advocates or judges. They have the history and connection with their kids to help them get through the trauma of such a pregnancy. Even in the most caring families, though, children often try to hide misconduct rather than face recrimination or embarrassment. The law should not reinforce those inclinations by allowing minors to bar parental knowledge or consent.”
Common sense and constitutional sanity should be celebrated wherever they are found. Jonathan Turley is not ready to join the pro-life cause, but he sees the fallacy of the abortion rights movement’s opposition to parental notification laws. It’s a start.
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
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